April 23, 2021

Cayman Islands Proud of Them – Jade Barnard & Jorel Bellafonte bios

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Jade Barnard – Academics

Scholar. Recycler. Entrepreneur. Musician. These are just some of the words that can be used to describe 14-year old Jade Barnard from West Bay. 

Jade is a straight ‘A’ student at Cayman Prep and High School where she balances 13 subjects, including two foreign languages. At the end of the 2017/2018 academic year, she received the Principal’s Award for top student in Year 8, best in year for Geography, Religious Education, and Spanish, as well as Maths and English, a notable achievement as it is unusual for students to be strong in both subjects.  She has also won her school’s junior spelling bee two years in a row and is a creative writer. 

Described as kind and thoughtful, Jade is community minded. She volunteers for Hospice Care on its Flag Day and the Cayman Islands Humane Society and is a member of her school’s Key Club where she also volunteers for various community events. She is a member of the South Sound United Church where she often runs the audio-visual equipment and prepares the presentation slides for the church services. As if that isn’t enough, she also plays the violin and piano and performs on the latter.

Jade’s leadership and academic skills have been noticed by teachers and peers alike. She was selected by her school to attend the Education Student Leadership Conference this past year, and has been chosen to participate in the DART Minds Inspired Math Challenge for the past two years.

Perhaps most noteworthy about Jade is the fact that she’s a small business owner.  In 2017 she and her older brother Luke started a small-scale recycling business – Convert Cayman – in West Bay at the Shores, and at Highlands, to encourage people to recycle their trash. The siblings put aside a couple of hours every Sunday morning to collect the recycling that their neighbours put out on the curb and take it to the recycling point at the Foster’s Food Fair in West Bay, charging a small fee which is dependent on whether the recyclables come sorted or unsorted into glass, metals, plastics and cardboard.

Her mother, Nancy Barnard nee Kirkaldy, says, “Jade wants to do her part to change the world, to make it a better place and solve global problems. I have no doubt that she will make her family, West Bay (she is the third generation of her family to grow up in this gorgeous district) and Cayman very proud one day.”

Jorel Bellafonte – Sports

Athleticism is in Jorel Bellafonte’s blood. From his earliest days as a pupil at Red Bay Primary, his natural speed and agility was evident. 

To harness that raw power, he joined the Mustang Track Club in George Town at the age of nine.  When he was 12 Jorel’s club competed in the Gibson Relays in Jamaica, and although his team did not medal in the 4x100m, Jorel’s performance impressed Michael Clarke, head coach for Calabar High School in Kingston.  Clarke offered him an athletics scholarship at what is widely known as the best athletics high school in the world. In fact, while he was a student there, Jorel’s team held the distinction of breaking a 27-year old record for the 4x800m which has only just been bested in 2018.

When he first enrolled at the elite school Jorel was the slowest in the 130-strong team but through gradual, careful conditioning by his coaches and an iron-clad determination to live up to the potential his coach had seen in him, he developed a higher level of maturity and discipline. His coach repeatedly told him that greatness requires sacrifice, a mantra which Jorel subsequently adopted as his own personal philosophy, and one that has seen him through the highs and the lows in his young life.

The transition from being the best sprinter in Cayman for his age at the time to joining a large team where he was the slowest was frustrating and humbling for Jorel.  Rather than give up however, he was determined to succeed and be the best of the best. This meant early morning training sessions and working out after a full school day while his classmates rested and had a social life. He then switched events from the 100m to the 800m, as his coach saw that Jorel’s stride was more that of a middle-distance runner than a sprinter. This was another uphill struggle but Jorel once more prevailed.

With his stellar training ethic, 12-year old Jorel went on to become the best 800m runner in the Caribbean for his age group. The Bodden Towner was also the first non-Jamaican to win at the ISSA Grace-Kennedy boys and girls high school championship, essentially creating the template for foreign student-athletes to attend school in Jamaica for sports.  At age 16, he captained the Cayman Islands athletics team at the 2011 CARIFTA Games in Jamaica and won a silver medal, the only one of his team that medalled that year. Other distinctions included the award of best student-athlete in Jamaica for the year 2013, winning the Herb McKinley award for best student-athlete at his school the same year and being voted captain of his middle-distance team at Calabar High School.

Jorel then went on to compete for Clemson University, a sporting powerhouse and top 20 university in the USA, where he became a two-time first team All-American, one of only three Caymanians to ever do so. He holds the National Junior and Senior records for the 800m and 1500m respectively for the Cayman Islands, and he achieved all of this by the age of 21.  He seemed to have a golden future in track ahead of him. Then unfortunately, Jorel suffered two severe stress fractures to his spine in 2016, injuries which effectively forced the 23-year old to walk away from competition.

Jorel’s legacy and contribution to the sport and the country lives on however and has not gone unnoticed. Although he was approached to compete for Jamaica all throughout his high school years, Jorel always graciously turned down the offer down in order to represent Cayman, a decision of which he is most proud.  Due to his success, it has become common for Caymanian parents to send their children to Jamaica with hopes of them becoming successful at sports like Jorel. He has inspired the next generation to follow their dreams.

Jorel graduated from Clemson with a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics and has recently finished a stint working for the Government of the Cayman Islands.

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